HC Deb 11 July 1968 vol 768 cc714-6
12. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made by his Department in providing new jobs within the Northern Region, and on the planning arrangements made for dealing with the unemployment position arising from pit closures and the general contraction of older industries.

Mr. Frederick Lee

The estimated additional employment flowing from industrial development certificates issued by the Board of Trade in the period 1965 to 1967 totalled 56,000, more than two thirds of which are for males. The figure for the first quarter of 1968 is 4,400. Incentives to new industries have recently been reinforced by the regional employment premium and, for areas most adversely affected by colliery closures, by the additional incentives offered in special development areas.

Mr. Milne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while this is a very significant success story, tremendous difficulties for the area nevertheless still lie ahead? Will he consider the provision of Government-owned factories and directing jobs, investment and so on into the area at a greater rate in order to meet these impending difficulties?

Mr. Lee

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that there are many important issues yet arising in the Northern Region. I remind him that the development areas have the advantage of the Government's contract preference scheme, and I assure him that we are closely looking at the effect of that to see whether we can further assist by Government purchasing.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

As in many of the development areas service trades account for a great deal more employment than manufacturing does, why have the Government decided to withdraw the Local Employment Act assistance from smaller service establishments?

Mr. Lee

The hon. Gentleman must also remember that we have recently announced the efforts which we are making to assist the hotel industry in the development areas. It is a question of balance. In many of these instances, it was felt that the huge amount of clerical work involved with the very small results which accrued did not provide an economic return.

Mr. Will Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that nine advance factories in the North-East are not occupied? As an essential feature of the whole problem is forward planning, what steps are the Government taking to survey these factories and, if private enterprise does not respond, to encourage public enterprise to develop?

Mr. Lee

I speak subject to correction, but I am sure that my hon. Friend is wrong to say that nine advance factories are now empty. My feeling is that within the last three or four months some seven or eight have been occupied. I cannot go further about Government purchasing than to say that this subject as a whole is now under review.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) was referring to the withdrawal of B.O.T.A.C. grants, which will mean a loss of jobs to Scotland greater than the number provided by the advance factory programme for three years? In those circumstances, would he reconsider it?

Mr. Lee

For the first time for many years Scotland is now showing a healthy balance. If the hon. Gentleman and his party had done one-third as much for Scotland as we have done, Scotland would be far better off than it now is.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to the need for new industries in the town of Peterlee and the Easington area? Is he aware that Peterlee has not had its fair share of the number of industries injected into the northern area, and is he further aware that several pits in the locality have been closed down?

Mr. Lee

My right hon. Friend will be aware that areas where the pit closure programme is at a heavy rate have been made special development areas which offer even greater inducements to industry than do ordinary development areas. I cannot direct people into the Peterlee area or any other development area, but we will do everything in our power to ensure that it is known that the North-East is a lovely part of the country in which to live. I bring to the notice of industrialists the fact that a great artist, Mr. Lowry, has said that he is retiring to the North-East because of its great beauty.